My husband and I are looking at booking our first trip to the Dominican Republic in December and I've narrowed our resort options down to Secrets Cap Cana, Secrets Royal Beach, Excellence El Carmen and Excellence Punta Cana. I'm having a hard time figuring out which one would suit us best.
For reference, we stayed at Secrets Akumal and Secrets Maroma in the Riviera Maya (both non-preferred club) last year. We liked both resorts but definitely preferred Secrets Akumal for the tropical atmosphere and a la carte lunch options.
Our main criteria are:
- Close proximity to a golf course (20 minutes or so)
- Tropical feel with vegetation as opposed to mostly concrete
- Wide variety of restaurants and always having at least one restaurant open (ex. some resorts have none open between 3-5 pm and we don't want that - room service doesn't count)
- Not a party resort
- Nice beach with soft sand and lots of shade available - white sand and clear blue water preferred but it's not a deal breaker
- Snorkeling nearby would be a bonus but I understand that snorkeling in the Punta Cana area isn't very good
Another factor that is making the decision hard is the option to go with the Preferred/Excellence Club or not. At all of the resorts it looks like the "club" guests have access to separate beach areas, pools and restaurants that non club guests don't. We don't care too much about the difference in room amenities, but I'm not sure if we would regret not booking a club room and not having access to the additional areas of the resort.
For the price of a Non-Preferred Tropical View room at Secrets Cap Cana we can get an Excellence Club Junior Suite Private Pool room at Excellence Punta Cana or an Excellence Club Ocean View room at Excellence El Carmen.
For the price of a Preferred Club Tropical View Room at Secrets Cap Cana we could get an Excellence Club Beachfront Honeymoon Swim Up Suite at Excellence El Carmen. I'm not sure that we would want to spend that much, but we would consider it.
I'm leaning a bit towards Secrets Cap Cana or Excellence El Carmen, but I'm really not sure. And also not sure if it's better to book a higher category club room at one of the lower priced resorts or book a non-club room at Secrets Cap Cana. If the club pools are generally the quieter pools and if there is some benefit to the club beach area other than just being a separate section, then I think we would probably lean towards a club level room, if not then I'm not sure if it matters that much.
Sorry for the long post and thank you for any insight you can provide.